Scope Turrets 101 – A 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: March 12, 2021

A turret can refer to many things in general. From a sentry post mounted on a citadel to a machine gun mounted on Humvee.

But as far as a scope turret is concerned, it refers to the two or sometimes three protruding knobs mounted on the center of the tube.

This discussion will explain all the in’s and out’s of scope turrets in detail.

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Scope Turret Terminology and Common Concepts

Turrets are kind of a fancy term for ‘adjustment knobs’. Maybe they got their name because they look like one mounted over the scope’s tube. Before understanding how they work. Let’s make you familiar with some jargon associated with them.

Reticle

Also known as ‘crosshairs’ colloquially, the reticle is the image you see every time inside a scope. Regardless of what you are aiming at.  It may be a simple ‘plus’ sign made by two perpendicular intersecting black lines. Or a more refined design with multiple lines, dots, and numbers. A reticle can also be illuminated for better visibility in low light conditions. 

Objective Lens

This refers to the front lens in scope from where the light enters. The larger the lens, the more light that enters. Hence creating a brighter image of the target. Higher magnification scopes generally have larger lenses. 

Windage

It refers to the air resistance of a moving object. When bullets travel through the air, their path can be impacted sideways by the flowing wind. There’s a windage adjustment knob on the scope that helps tackle this. 

Elevation

It mostly refers to the height of an object. But for turrets, it mentions the angular distance of something over the horizon. As a bullet moves through, its path is impacted by gravity. The top turret on the scope helps you adjust according to this value. The amount of change in elevation of a bullet over a specific distance is known as a drop. 

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Units of Angular Measurement (MOA or Mil)

MOA (Minute of Angle) represents one degree in a full circle. Or in simpler terms, one inch at 100 yards. Many scopes offer adjustments in Mrad a.k.a Mil.  1/10 Mrad translates to 1 cm for each click at 100 yards. Mil is more prevalent with the military. 

Click Value

The change in MOA or Mil setting with a slight turn of the adjustment knob. For example, ¼ MOA, ⅛ MOA, or 1 MOA per click. 

Adjustment Range

The maximum adjustment can be made by rotating the turrets. For example, 80 MOA, 100 MOA, 140 MOA, etc. 

Sighting

The action of aligning your scope with the barrel, so you hit the target exactly where you aim. 

Zeroing

The action of adjusting the windage and elevation of scope to ensure the reticle aims where you want to hit.

How Do Scope Turrets Work?

Before you understand how turrets work. Take a minute to understand how a scope works. 

The riflescope is a combination of two tubes known as the objective tube and the erector tube. The objective tube is the entire outside tube and it houses the objective lens. The erector tube is the smaller tube that holds the erector lens. Moving the distance between the objective and erector lenses helps change the magnification.

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There’s an adjustment spring between the erector and objective tube that keeps both these tubes separated.

The scope turrets responsible for adjusting the windage and elevation shift the position of this tube through the axis by changing the pressure on the spring for making adjustments. 

What Does the Top Turret Do?

The top turret is responsible for managing the elevation settings. It helps tackle the drop in the bullet trajectory by providing a lower reference point for impact on a certain range. This knob can be twisted clockwise or counterclockwise for adjustment. 

What Does the Side-Turret Do?

The side turret (generally the one on the right) is used for making adjustments to the windage by rotating the knob. Windage may deviate left or right depending upon the direction of the wind. 

What Does the Other Side-Turret Do?

If there’s a third adjustment knob near the windage and elevation knobs. It will be there to set the parallax. The term parallax refers to the shifting of the reticle from your point of aim, as you move your head slightly around while looking at the target. 

Some scope manufacturers deliver parallax adjustments and reticle illumination settings collectively on this knob. 

Additionally, some scopes offer parallax settings via a ring mounted near the objective, known as adjustable objective. 

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These adjustment knobs are marked with graduation values which allow the user to calculate the amount of adjustment needed to attain a specific setting. 

For example, if a scope offers ¼ MOA (0.25 MOA) clicks. That means to get a one-inch shift (for windage or elevation) you need to dial four clicks in the desired direction. Some more precise scopes offer finer adjustments like ⅛ MOA. So in that case, you have to dial eight clicks to obtain a one-inch shift. 

Turret clicks may or may not be audible. Most scopes offer turrets that rely on the physical perception of the user for a click. The turrets can start to feel mushy after prolonged use of a scope. Which happens due to the loss of elasticity in the adjustment spring

Also, remember that some turrets will be more or less sensitive than others. 

Additionally, you will also find scopes with locking or non-locking turrets. In simple terms, a locking turret is one that allows you to lock its position so it doesn’t shift around. 

There’s also a concept called ‘quick-zero’ turrets that allow you to quickly reset the turrets to zero without dialing the knob. Thus helping you start over quickly.

Pros of Scope Turrets

The inherent benefit of using turrets on a scope is already very clear. But as turrets can differ a bit in the design. Let’s take a look at their benefits. 

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Enhances accuracy & eliminates guesswork

Windage and elevation are the most important factors that can greatly impede the accuracy of a rifle. Especially when shooting at long ranges and on a day with windy conditions. 

Having the right turrets on your scope makes you 100% sure that your bullet is going to land on the exact spot where you want. Bypassing factors like wind, distance, and bullet ballistics.

If your scope has a parallax setting, it further enhances the performance of your rifle on distant ranges.  

Quick adjustments for changing ranges

Turrets are designed and positioned in a manner that makes it possible for you to make quick adjustments. Factors like changing wind speed and changing distance do not affect your accuracy. Especially if you are using ballistic or target turrets. 

Versatility: works with all calibers

Except when you are using ballistic or custom turrets. The other turrets do not differentiate among the ballistics of calibers. With a slight trial, you can adjust your scope to shoot with exceptional accuracy with any caliber. If the scope is not impacted much by recoil. 

Cons of Scope Turrets

With the pros discussed above, let’s now focus upon a few drawbacks that will appear before the user in some situations. 

Can snag with objects

While this is not a problem with most turret designs. Exposed/target turrets protrude a bit much and can snag onto your clothing, gear, or any other objects. Which can also change the settings if the turret is finger adjustable. 

This can cause you to miss a shot if the turret is not in the desired setting. 

Takes time

Dialing turrets may require the shooter to move his/her eyes away from the target. This not only makes the target out of sight but also consumes valuable time which can cause the target to move away. A good answer to this situation is ballistic turrets. 

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Types of Scope Turrets

While the internals is mostly a common design, the externals of turrets differ in their design and can be segregated into several types. Each of these designs is useful for specific situations. Thus giving the shooter an edge. 

Exposed/Target Turrets

Revered as the most precise turrets available today. These are characterized by their tall stature and very subtle adjustments that offer immaculate precision to the user. These are the oldest kind of turrets and are widely used by target shooters. Hence the name. 

These are also called exposed turrets because they seem to protrude more than normal on rifles. This extra size helps with quick handling and finer adjustments. But limit the use of these turrets with other optical accessories. While also causing a slight hindrance for the naked eye when peeping. 

These turrets are best suited for long range precision shooting applications and may or may not be finger adjustable. 

Capped Turrets

Capped turrets, as the name suggests, feature a cap on the top of the turret. This cap protects the inner dial from accidental changes along with any other inclement damages. The caps can be unscrewed with bare hands or using a tool. The inner dials can be adjusted using a tool or bare hands too. 

These turrets are mostly preferred by hunters. That’s because hunting doesn’t require very frequent turret adjustments and the rifle is often subjected to harsh use and tough weather conditions. 

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Key Turrets

These turrets necessarily require a tool for adjustment. This tool can be an Allen key, a screwdriver, or a simple coin. As evident from their design, these turrets are not suitable for use in a jiffy. But rather in situations where the adjustments are often fixed and should not be disturbed by recoil or movement. 

These turrets are suitable for hunting and scouting applications. Along with short to medium-range shooting. 

Ballistic Turrets

These turrets come in handy under stressful situations. They feature long incremental markings, generally in 100-yard increments. Hence offering the shooter a quick reference for distance. Scopes with these turrets generally feature a ballistic reticle that has pre-calibrated markings relevant to a specific caliber. 

Custom Turrets

These turrets have to be ordered and are designed to suit the specific requirements of an individual user. The factory indicators for clicks, zero stops are removed from the scope and reinstalled following the newer specifications. 

Conclusion

Using turrets on your scope becomes imperative if you are shooting at a distance greater than 300 yards. Since that’s where factors like gravity and wind come mostly into play. This distance can be greater with most modern advanced bullets. Scopes generally have three turrets to adjust the windage, elevation, and parallax. Having good turrets is essential for pinpoint accuracy. Especially over a long range. 

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People Also Ask

Read through this concise and useful FAQ section that covers some important and useful information about scope turrets. 

How to Reset Scope Turrets

Some scopes come with a zero-reset functionality for quickly doing this. Alternatively, there are two methods for doing this. The mirror method and the counting method. 

How to Improve Spongy Turrets On Scope

Mushy turrets are a result of a thick layer of grease. To correct that, you should unscrew the turrets, bring out the cap and clean the factory grease. Replacing it with a thinner variant. Reinstall the turrets back and you should be good now. 

Why Do Some Scope Turrets Move in the Opposite Direction?

Scope turrets move in the opposite direction to compensate for the left/right or up/down movement of the reticle. Since reticle adjustments have to be made on a 360-degree axis and the zero marks the center of this axis. 

How to Lock Scope Turrets?

Locking turrets usually require you to use a tool (like a hex key). Which is used to loosen the turrets, dial the settings and then tighten the turret screws to lock it in position. Some turrets also offer tool-less locking.

Ankit has been a writer for almost a decade now and has developed a diverse portfolio. His love for writing led him to turn down his lavish and lucrative career as a software engineer, twisting the reins of his life towards being a full-time writer. He only does what he loves. His hobbies include gardening, reading, shooting, and most of all - learning new things in every context (hence why he chose to be a writer). His whimsical nature and love for writing fosters creativity in all of his work